On being … squirrel-like?

By Ingrid Sapona

A couple months ago cheddar was on sale. I like having cheese on hand and so I bought some. The block was about 12 inches x 4 inches and about one-half inch thick. When I got home I cut off about one-third and wrapped it for storage in the fridge. I put the remaining chunk in the freezer. Freezing cheddar makes it a bit more crumbly than normal, but it doesn’t impact the flavour at all.

A few weeks later I went to the freezer to get out some cheddar, but I couldn’t find it. My freezer is on the bottom of the fridge. My initial search was confined to the freezer’s top drawer because that’s where I usually put things like cheese. After a few minutes of shuffling things here and there to no avail, I noticed I had become agitated.

I was irritated for a number of reasons. The most obvious was that I wanted some cheese and couldn’t find any. I was also angry with myself for not being more organized about the freezer. I’m usually quite good about returning things to the same place, and not just because I’m a creature of habit. I put things back where I got them from because I hate wasting time looking for things, which was exactly what I was doing!

After a few more minutes I realized my only hope of finding it was to empty the whole freezer. As the kitchen floor became littered with frozen food, it soon became obvious there was no cheddar to be found. I couldn’t believe it. After one last, thorough look through the fridge, I came to the conclusion that I had either actually already used all that cheese, or I accidentally threw it out when I was clearing off the counter after unpacking the groceries.

In no time at all I fell into full self-flagellation mode, chiding myself for possibly having mindlessly consumed a whack of cheese, or, if I hadn’t eaten it, then I was angry with myself for basically throwing money out. I also scolded myself for not living up to my own standards of organization when it comes to the freezer. When I finally calmed down, I vowed to be more careful.

So, the next time I was at Costco I picked up a huge, two-pound brick of cheddar. Though that’s a heck of a lot of cheese, at least it would last for a while. It was such a huge block I figured it would be very hard to cut through when frozen, so I cut the brick into pieces before putting it in the freezer.

One day, when I pulled open the freezer, a package of rolls fell back off the top drawer. To retrieve them I had to get down on my hands and knees and use a pair of tongs. As I reached for the rolls, I noticed the package of cheddar was also down there, and so I pulled it out too. As I re-arranged the top drawer making space for the packages I had just retrieved, I cursed the damned design of the freezer and then forgot about the whole thing.

Last week I took out the cheese, wanting to defrost some. I thought it was odd that the block wasn’t cut into chunks, as I was sure I had done that before I froze it. As I cut off a hunk and returned the rest to the freezer, I couldn’t help wonder if I was losing it.

Later, when I went to use the cheese, I was surprised again – this time by how thin the piece seemed. That’s when it dawned on me that the cheese I had gotten out was the package I had retrieved with the tongs and it was the cheese I thought I had thrown out weeks before. This explained why the hunk was so thin (it wasn’t from Costco) and why it was in an un-cut block. (I hadn’t pre-cut the first block – just the oversize Costco brick.) So, mysteries solved and confidence in my sanity restored – at least for the time being.

The next day I happened to notice a squirrel running around. As I watched it, I smiled at the thought of the similarities between my storing cheese and that squirrel storing nuts. In thinking more about it, I wondered whether squirrels get angry with themselves or feel stupid when they can’t immediately find the nuts they’ve stored. I’ll bet they don’t… I suspect that behavior is strictly a human thing.

You know, from now on, I’m taking my cue from squirrels. You can bet I’ll continue socking away stuff for later. But, if I can’t find it right away, I’ll just continue on, figuring it’ll turn up eventually.

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


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